In mid-December, contract talks between the Mat-Su school board and the Matanuska-Susitna Education Association stalled with school board members saying they wanted to get a deal done but needed more time. Just over one month later, the wheels are slowing starting to turn again, as the school board met in executive session on Tuesday, a day before Wednesday's school board meeting.

"At this time there is an executive session on the agenda again, if the school board members need it" Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District Public Information Officer Jillian Morrissey said.

But, Morrissey said, the situation is fluid at best. 

Last month, Mat-Su Education Association President Dianne Shibe said both sides are scheduled back to the negotiating table on Jan. 21. 

"That's when we will find out whether or not the board is interested in incentivizing working in the district," Shibe said. "Or are they going to continue disincentivizing and encouraging people to go to Anchorage and work there? We have a very dissatisfied membership and they are — they’re ready to walk."

The two sides went to mediation in December. If they can’t agree this month then they'll be able to move right into arbitration.

If it gets that far, an arbitrator will make a decision that’s advisory, not binding. Then, as required by law, both sides would sit down one more time to try and hammer out a deal. 

"At that point, at least we have the opinion of the arbitrator to say hey, even a third party agrees that you should do A,B,C," Shibe said. "Then at that point, if we come to impasse again, only then can the association ask their members if they wish to strike."

At that point the union would take a strike vote which would authorize the strike. 

"It doesn't mean that the next day we are out on strike," Shibe said. "It means that they tell the officers of the association you're allowed to take us out on strike. Then we look at things very strategically to determine what month to do it in, what day of the week to do it."

Once that is all decided the association has to make sure that the school district knows 72 hours in advance.

Last fall, Shibe said, teachers on the Kenai Peninsula were four hours from walking away before anagreement was reached. Shibe, the Mat-Su school district and the school board hope that their negotiations don't get to that point. 

The school board has a negotiations page people can follow.

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